Health and Science

As coronavirus spreads on ship, Princess Cruises offers crew two months of vacation

Key Points
  • Carnival's Princess Cruises confirmed 40 new cases of the coronavirus on its quarantined ship docked in Japan.
  • That brings the total number of confirmed cases on the Diamond Princess to 175; at least 10 of those are crew members.
  • It is the most concentrated number of cases of the new coronavirus anywhere in the world outside of China.
Officers in protective gear enter the cruise ship Diamond Princess, where 10 more people were tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday, to transfer a patient to the hospital after the ship arrived at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, Japan February 7, 2020.
Kim Kyung-Hoon | Reuters

Carnival's Princess Cruises said it will compensate quarantined crew members who are caring for more than 2,600 passengers on a ship docked in Japan as the new coronavirus spreads among those aboard.

The cruise line confirmed late Tuesday there are 40 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, which the World Health Organization has named COVID-19, on the quarantined Diamond Princess. That brings the total to 175; at least 10 are crew members.

There are now more cases aboard the Diamond Princess than anywhere else in the world outside of China. The cruise line has tested just over 490 of the more than 3,700 passengers and crew on the ship so far, the Japanese Health Ministry said, and more tests will follow in the coming days.

The company has offered guests a second cruise for free as well as a full refund for the current cruise, including the costs of onshore excursions and tips paid to staff.

Carnival: Coronavirus will have material impact on results
Carnival: Coronavirus will have material impact on results

For the crew, the company — which faces mounting scrutiny for its treatment of crew members on board — is providing two paid months of vacation, the company confirmed to CNBC.

"I agree that the crew is critical for our success, so we just let them know that they will be given two paid vacation months off following this ordeal," company spokesman Roger Frizzell said in an email sent Tuesday that was viewed by CNBC.

"This is new to everyone, including the Japanese government," Frizzell wrote, "but I am starting to see some progress, especially late today, but we have a long way to go, I know."

At least 20 of those infected are American, according to the company. The Japanese Health Ministry said all of the infected passengers will be removed from the ship and transported to local hospitals.

The 2,666 passengers and 1,045 crew members on the ship have been quarantined in the port of Yokohama since it arrived on Feb. 3. On Monday, Princess Cruises said the quarantine will end Feb. 19, "unless there are any unforeseen developments."

Passenger Gay Courter, a 75-year-old novelist, is quarantined on the ship with her 77-year-old husband, Phil. On Monday, Courter said someone visited their cabin at the beginning of the quarantine to take their temperature. Then over the weekend, she said, they were given an electronic thermometer and asked to monitor their temperatures themselves.

Tensions are rising along with the number of confirmed cases on the ship, Courter told CNBC, but she praised the crew for doing their "very, very best."

"The pastry chef is like my favorite person on the ship right now because, you know what, if you're gonna die from the flu, yeah, we're not going to count calories," Courter said. "I'm trying to have a sense of humor."

'This whole thing has failed'—Cruise ship passengers call for an end to quarantine
'This whole thing has failed'—Cruise ship passengers call for an end to quarantine

On Wednesday, Carnival Cruise Lines, the parent company of Princess Cruises, said the epidemic could dent earnings this year by as much as 65 cents per share if the cruise line is forced to suspend its operations in Asia through April.

"As a result of Coronavirus, the company believes the impact on its global bookings and cancelled voyages will have a material impact on its financial results which was not anticipated in the company's previous 2020 earnings guidance," Carnival said.

Carnival shares rose more than 2% Wednesday despite the disclosure as investors have been anticipating a material impact to earnings because of the virus. The shares are down 13% this year.

CNBC's Lora Kolodny and Maggie Fitzgerald contributed to this report.

'This whole thing has failed'—Cruise ship passengers call for an end to quarantine
'This whole thing has failed'—Cruise ship passengers call for an end to quarantine